Nick has a knack for bursting bubbles with straight talk. It’s not that he means to shoot down fanciful notions, it’s just that he’s gifted at providing a sobering dose of practical logic that usually lands with the explosive, eye-opening force of a scud missile. On more than a few occasions, Nick has unwittingly supplied some stark clarity to my perspective. It’s not that he’s unsympathetic to my seeming multitude of plights, it’s just that Nick — somewhat ironically, for an editor — disregards his own inner editor, and speaks his mind without the filter of what some might call sensitivity.
In any case, I met with Nick initially to talk about my current vocational status, but ended up having a broader discussion about the trajectory of my life at the moment. As such, we touched on the subject of my running. I gave him the whole weepy backstory, appending the details of my incremental progress in terms of laps and distance that — up until that very moment — seemed to be leaving a positive impression on the folks I’d spoken to about it.
In typical fashion, Nick broke it down. “Listen,” he said, “it’s not about laps. And what you’re doing now isn’t going to make that much of a dent. If you want to get anywhere with this, you’ve got to run for about twenty minutes a day. Don’t worry about laps. Run for ten minutes in one direction, then turn around and run ten minutes back. That’s what I do. Otherwise, you’re really kinda wasting your time."
Like I said, straight talk.
I got the feeling, though, that — characteristic bluntness aside — Nick had a point. While my running was feeling like a step in the right direction, I didn’t really feel like I was genuinely pushing myself. I would do my lap and a half (or whatever) and just wind back down. At the end of my runs, I was sweaty, but I was no longer feeling true exertion, and I certainly wasn’t feeling any endorphin-fueled runner’s high (although I’m not sure I ever really will). I decided that, much like in so many other facets of my life at the moment, I really need to step it up if I’m going to get anything done.
The next morning, after dropping my kids off at school, I sped back home, donned my running gear and set out for Washington Square Park again. After some quick stretches, I started running, thinking about what Nick had said. After making it around the Park twice at a decent pace, I felt something weird. I looked down and noticed one of my running shoes had become untied. Looking at the stopwatch on my iPhone, I then noticed that I’d only really been running for about thirteen minutes. I was tired and suddenly distracted. I wasn’t going to make it to twenty minutes. I wound down into a walk and panted my way home in a brow-furrowing fog of self-disappointment. I’ve got to do better.
This morning, however, I was determined. Again, after dutifully depositing my kids at school, I made it back home, slugged down a cup of coffee (good idea before running? That’s another topic), jumped into my running stuff and off I went.
This time, in the hopes of getting my mind off of laps and whatnot, I decided to leave my iPhone at home and grabbed my iPod. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’d been eschewing music on my runs, but now it seemed like something that could genuinely help get my mind where it needed to be. It was time, again, to do this right.
I should take a moment here to point out that while I’m taking Nick’s words to heart, I don’t necessarily consider those words gospel. While I’m indeed endeavoring to step up my performance, so to speak, I’m fully aware of my own limitations. While I do want to run for twenty minutes at a go, the moment I feel pain of any kind, I’m going to stop. I’m determined, but rest assured — I’m not entirely stupid.
Anyway, I dialed up Fear of Music by Talking Heads on my beloved 160 GB iPod Classic (since criminally discontinued — fuck you, Apple!), correctly assuming that the insistent pulse of tracks like “I Zimbra,” “Life During Wartime” and “Air” would inspire and propel me around Washington Square. Trying hard not to think about the distance and progress I was making, I believe I really hit my stride during “Cities,” pairing David Byrne’s nervous delivery (….SOMETIMES I’M A LITTLE FREAKED OUT indeed) with the rhythmic urgency of my pace. Almost totally absorbed in the music, I actually lost track of how many laps I did, concentrating more on the thwomp of Tina Weymouth’s bass guitar. Before I knew it, I looked at my watch and realized I’d been running for eighteen minutes. By the end of another song, I was done and downshifted into a walk.
Probably not since my first awkward run back in July, I felt that strangely positive springy sensation in my legs. I was tired — and, sorry, a good deal sweatier than usual, but it all felt good.
Okay, that worked, and music totally helped — can I keep it up?